George Dearnaly

Great start to 2010 spectacle

2007-11-27 13:32

George Dearnaley

I was one of the thousands of local fans who flocked to Durban for the weekend's soccer activities.

On Saturday I was at the 'Soweto Derby', and was thrilled by the entertainment dished up. It might not have been the best game ever, but there were enough goals and goal-mouth action to keep everyone happy. Even the pouring rain did little to dampen the spirits of the soccer-lovers.

I went out after the match and joined up with French soccer greats Marcel Desailly and Christian Karembeu as well as former US goalkeeper Kasey Keller - and heard nothing but praise from all three gentlemen. They were honest in their assessment of what they had seen and been involved in on the Saturday and were very excited that our preparations all seemed to be well on track.

Sunday was without doubt the one of the classiest soccer events I have ever been involved in (maybe I haven't been to enough!) but the 2010 Soccer World Cup Preliminary draw was superb.

Simply fantastic

From an organisational point of view, simple things like parking, registration and communication from City of Durban volunteers were all fantastic. The food at the media centre was a bit pricey for locals, but that was a small matter and not worthy of more than this sentence.

The actual draw went off with only the smallest of glitches - the sound went off for 30 seconds - but apart from that, it was simply fantastic.

The media centre had everything any media hack could ever want - access to internet, telephone, pre-draw information, the fixture schedule for all the matches was handed out within minutes of the final draw, and access to the managers and officials of all the top teams in the world was superbly organised.

I got within inches of Scotland manager Alex McLeish and overheard him singing the praises of Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira to a host of international media reps. He said that apart from the Scotland v Bafana match, he had also travelled over to watch us take on Italy, and was impressed with a lot of what he saw.

Great opportunity

Dutch coach Marco van Basten was next - and although he didn't recognise me... to be within touching distance of one of the world's greatest ever strikers, and to hear him commenting on the local game, the draw and the challenges facing Holland, was a great experience.

These people are experts and football is their business and to have a whole lot of them in the country at the same time is a great opportunity to learn.

I'm now at the SoccerExpo in Johannesburg and mingling with the Who's who of international football.

Everywhere you turn there is a familiar face. David Dein (former chairperson of Arsenal), Lee Martin (former FA Cup goalscorer for Manchester United), local heroes Lucas Radebe and Shaun Bartlett, big Phil Scolari, agents, top international football media writers whose names are familiar from their website columns and their newspaper articles in the UK - the list is a very long one.

Learn about the business

The stands are mostly very impressive. Some of the local stands are among the best on show with PSL glamour team Kaizer Chiefs giving some of the Host City stands a run for number one place. The Host City of Cape Town hosted a wine and oyster party last night, and it was only after TV soccer show host Mike 'Sporro' Mangena knocked a glass of red wine all over my pants, that I forced myself to leave.

I'm on my way back in now, and will be making the most of this fantastic opportunity to learn about the business of football over the next few days!

Comments on the World Cup draw

I think it is great that Bafana draw Nigeria in our group. It adds a lot of flavour and spice to the group, and the other teams will not be easy away from home. There are even rumours that Equatorial Guinea are fast-tracking citizenship for some Brazilian players...

England might think there is some revenge on the cards with Croatia in their group, but I think they won't be unhappy with the draw. They could have got Germany, Italy, France among others, so shouldn't be too perturbed.

The only shout of real joy was when Greece were drawn in Group 2 - a relatively easy group compared to the rest. Although Israel are also in the group and will fancy their chances of qualifying too.

  • George is the associate publisher of Kick Off magazine and represented South Africa during the 1994 World Cup qualifiers.

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